On the morning of June 28, 1969, The Stonewall Inn was raided a second time, and as a surprise—the bar wasn’t tipped off this time.
Armed with a warrant, police officers entered the club, roughed up patrons, and, finding bootlegged alcohol, arrested 13 people, including employees and people violating the state’s gender-appropriate clothing statute (female officers would take suspected cross-dressing patrons into the bathroom to check their sex).
Fed up with constant police harassment and social discrimination, angry patrons and neighborhood residents hung around outside of the bar rather than disperse, becoming increasingly agitated as the events unfolded and people were aggressively manhandled. At one point, an officer hit a lesbian over the head as he forced her into the paddy wagon — she shouted to onlookers to act, inciting the crowd to begin throw pennies, bottles, cobble stones, and other objects at the police.
Within minutes, a full-blown riot involving hundreds of people began. The police, a few prisoners, and a Village Voice writer barricaded themselves in the bar, which the mob attempted to set on fire after breaching the barricade repeatedly.
The fire department and a riot squad were eventually able to douse the flames, rescue those inside Stonewall, and disperse the crowd. But the protests, sometimes involving thousands of people, continued in the area for five more days, flaring up at one point after the Village Voice published its account of the riots.
Though the Stonewall uprising didn’t start the gay rights movement, it was a galvanizing force for LGBT political activism, leading to numerous gay rights organizations, including the Gay Liberation Front, Human Rights Campaign (HRC), GLAAD (formerly Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), and PFLAG (formerly Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays).
In 2016, President Obama designated the site of the riots—Stonewall Inn, Christopher Park, and the surrounding streets and sidewalks—a national monument in recognition of the area’s contribution to gay and human rights.